The voting figures show show that Collabro claimed the crown with 26.5%, ahead of Lucy Kay on 17% and Bars and Melody on 14.3%. Top of the non-singing acts was Darcy Oake in fifth with 8.5%. What can we conclude from the final? Here are five thoughts.
1. Is backstory overrated on BGT…
On the face of it, it’s odd that Collabro succeeded where similarly commercial-looking popera acts Richard and Adam fell short in 2013 and Jonathan and Charlotte in 2012. Those two acts both had great backstories – how her friendship had helped his self-confidence, and how the brothers sang while making sandwiches and love their granny. Collabro’s backstory? They’re five blokes who, um, don’t like having to do boring jobs.
Groups need some kind of genesis story and narrative to get through the marathon of X Factor. But is backstory overrated in the relative sprint that is BGT?
2. Or was this just a weak year?
The most obvious explanation for Collabro succeeding where J&C and R&A failed is that this year’s competition was weaker.
Producers seemed alert to this, judging by the number of times the judges tried to persuade us thre was strength in depth in the final. There were several comments to the effect that “I keep thinking I’ve seen the winner then an ever better act comes along” – and then Cowell’s “in any other year that would be a winning performance” to Lucy Kay, which seemed an oddly deflating thing to say after a wow moment from the pimp slot.
3. Semi results tracked the final
BGT release the percentages but not, of course, the vote totals. We’d be intrigued to know how much the raw vote totals vary across the semis. There’s suggestive evidence that the raw votes in the semis might have allowed producers to be reasonably confident what result they’d get in the final, because in four of the five semis the ratio of the winner’s vote to the other qualifier’s pretty closely tracked the situation in the final.
In both semi and final, Collabro got about four times Darcy Oake’s vote and six times Jon Clegg’s. James Smith got about four times The Addict Initiative’s vote in the semi, and three times in the final, a pattern repeated by Jack Pack and Paddy and Nico. Bars and Melody got about three times Lettice’s vote on both occasions. The only significant difference was Lucy Kay’s margin over Yanis, Arnaud & Mehdi – two-fold in the semi, seventeen-fold in the final. That’s no surprise given that she closed the show with such a big song.
If the raw votes across the semis do predict the final vote fairly closely, Lucy might have attracted significantly fewer votes on the Wednesday than Collabro did on the Monday, and that might have made producers confident about the winner they’d get. Which would explain Cowell’s otherwise odd comment to Lucy about her performance being good enough to win in any other year – it was a set-up to make Collabro’s win look more impressive.
4. Bars and Melody under the bus
It’s always interesting to have a case study in nobbling to pick over, and Bars And Melody were the unfortunates on the receiving end. Clearly, producers didn’t want them to win and were nervous enough to employ some classic tactics against them – notably being the first of the six singing acts in the running order, the “end of journey” vibe of their VT, which showed how they had already got their message across through 29 million YouTube hits and American chat shows.
There were a couple of interesting variants on familiar themes. Note how B&M were memory-holed by the vocally superior James Smith, also a teenager. And then James’s retro performance was memory-holed by Jack Pack’s retro performance. The cumulative effect, cleverly, was to suggest that Jack Pack > James > B&M.
Judges’ comments continued the end-of-journey vibe, with plenty of “you’ve made your parents proud” and a conspicuous absence of “you deserve to win, I want people to pick up the phone”. Cowell’s coup de grace was a masterpiece of the non-vote-motivating-praise genre: “I hope my son grows up to be like you”. Nice to see young Eric being pressed into service.
5. Do oldies just not motivate the votes?
Perhaps the only surprise in the voting figures was quite how few votes Paddy and Nico generated. After Janey Cutler in 2010, can we conclude that the older generation can generate hype and column inches but not phone votes?
There was also plenty for staging aficionados to get their teeth into in the final: was Lettice giving off sparks, or being electrocuted? Bars and Melody got helpful gold ticker tape, but were made to look small by backing dancers on plinths. James Smith was visually associated with dim light bulbs. Lucy was clad angelically in white with her instrumentalists in black, and started standing on a cloud with a star of light above her head.
There were some right hatchet jobs in the semi-finals too. Running order usually told us producers’ intentions, but there were further ways of sticking the boot in. The most unfortunate example was probably Kings & Queens – shoved under a (London) bus with a sexually-provocative, messy, red-and-blacked routine. What else did you spot from the heats?
As ever, let us know your reflections below.